Sunday, 30 March 2014


Part of the appeal in watching modern American crime thrillers is in anticipating which well-worn path they'll take at each approaching juncture. There's comfort and base satisfaction to be had along the obvious paths, and further mystery along the comparatively hidden ones. Blue Ruin may stumble somewhat in preparing itself to be able to reach said junctures and choose any one of several paths, and it may continue to stumble thereafter, but in selecting the unexpected routes to its otherwise inevitable conclusion, it earns my respect, and also my consistent interest. As a story in its complete form, Blue Ruin is frustratingly rambling; as a work of art, it's laudably original in some integral aspects. Yet central to the film are two aspects, simple in their essence but complex in their execution. Writer / director Jeremy Saulnier creates astonishingly high levels of tension with apparently minimum effort, wisely falling back on select storytelling devices to do so - a latent focus on the threat of violence, smart use of space and location in emphasising characters' predicaments or, smartly, establishing a sense of complacency, ripe for the tables to be turned, or not. The wayward trail he takes through the basic plot that influences the fundamental details of what occurs (though now how, nor where, nor when) institutes a tangible instability that makes Saulnier's scenes of physical danger thoroughly riveting. And he is most fortunate in the casting of Macon Blair as Dwight, the hapless hobo who turns vindictive amateur assassin when the man he holds responsible for the death of his parents years prior is released from prison. Blair's wide-eyed stare communicates his most essential, primal emotions with clarity and directness, and he and Saulnier are clever to turn another twist on their revenge narrative by portraying Dwight as a man whose determination only makes more plain his ineptitude. This doesn't quite fit in with that narrative entirely, though, since, for a film so concerned with reason, motive and planning, Dwight's circumstances are too often configured by sheer fortuitousness; credulity is abandoned when, for example, Saulnier leaves too much space for dialogue and clear reasoning in a near-death situation. But if his missteps are all in aid of the goal that is offering a genuinely fresh perspective on the American crime thriller, then they're not wholly unwelcome.